I was an awesome cat. I was, in fact, Hello Kitty. (Yes, the Hello Kitty).
[caption id="attachment_1170" align="aligncenter" width="150" caption="I usually wore these overalls."][/caption]
Years ago, I worked for a Sanrio retail store in the US. Part of my job involved wearing ginormous costumes to appear at various events - those child ID days? I was there. Mall events, grand openings, parades, you name it. And at every one of them, I wore a huge, fur-covered cat suit and greeted kids for hours on end. I loved the job, but it did have it's challenges - and not just from the handful of kids who are invariably afraid of costumed characters (there are always a few).
First of all, let me tell you: costume work is serious business. Those suits are heavy and hot. Of course nobody on the outside could see me sweat, but there's no getting around the fact that nobody's pretty after an hour inside 50 pounds of cat suit. Don't be fooled by the big eyes and the red bow: you've got to be tough to be Hello Kitty! You also have to be able to do the Hokey-Pokey in giant feet, and that's a skill I challenge you to master.
Anyway, as I said, I loved it...most of the time. Sometimes though, being a costumed mime cat is not the bed of roses you're probably thinking it is.
Once I was working a typical "Child Safe" day in a mall parking lot, sponsored by the local police department. Volunteers were making IDs for kids and teaching them all about not taking candy from strangers, and I was part of the entertainment. The cops had rented a life-sized "robot" McGruff the Crime Dog for the event, which didn't phase me at all. I'd worked with many other celebrities: Batman, Superman, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus. (That's right, I was up there on stage with the big man himself - totally famous). McGruff was just another in a long line of "celebrities" to share my kitty spotlight.
Now to be perfectly honest, calling that McGruff a robot was a stretch - it was really more like a mannequin on a platform with a pretty crummy RC system. It had buttons to play a few phrases like, "Ruff! Ruff! Take a bite out of crime!" in a grizzled voice, and it stood with one arm bent, pointing his dog-finger, and a joystick controller that rolled him around. But that's really all he did - rolling around, saying the same phrases over and over, pointing at people.
Since the old "robot" dog didn't have many tricks, Hello Kitty was infinitely more popular with the kids. But the officers weren't going to stand for that. After awhile, they put it all together: they had a dog. I was a cat. Somehow, comedy gold would be born from this combination.
I believe I was doing my typical Hello Kitty performance when suddenly I was goosed from behind. I'd had plenty of kids pull my tail, but this was a little different - it was a hard poke to the backside, and not just once, no. Again and again I was assaulted, even as I tried to turn and maneuver to find the culprit. The kids were laughing hysterically, but I couldn't move fast enough to see what was going on behind me.
[caption id="attachment_1171" align="aligncenter" width="150" caption="Bad dog! No!"][/caption]
Now the world can be a little confusing as Hello Kitty - my visibility was limited to a small window in the nose and the fur head muffled most sound. I was accustomed to working around those challenges though - I was, after all, a trained professional. But all the training in the world can't prepare a girl for a random surprise kancho.
After a few minutes, I caught on. It was McGruff! Of all the random things in my random life, I found myself being virtually assaulted by a crime dog in a public anti-crime venue, to everyone's amusement but my own.
The kids, of course, were laughing and giggling so hard there was really no way to stop it. Hello Kitty is nothing if not a good sport. So the police decided to chase me around the parking lot with Robot McGruff and his poky finger on my heels the whole way. And while I'm sure it looked very funny from outside the costume, inside, I was being roasted alive on the hot asphalt. I kept trying to get them to stop, but the first rule of being Hello Kitty is: DO NOT TALK IN COSTUME! (It's like Fight Club, but with fake fur and a bow). I wasn't about to spoil anything for the kids, so all I could do is plead with my hands, wag my finger, mime crying...and run in giant cat feet when the dog came back around to chase me anew.
There came a point, however, when it was obvious that I had to somehow stop the madness. I'd been in the costume too long already (there are rules about that, you know! You can pass out in there!), and I was getting dehydrated from running around in the heat. But when I tried to go into the trailer for some water and a cool-off break, the cops thought it was funny to stop me. They parked Robot McGruff right in my path and set him to bark repeatedly.
Now honestly, I considered just knocking that stupid "robot" dog contraption over and going on past. I mean really now - I may have looked like Hello Kitty, but I am quite capable of knocking over a cheap mannequin when pressed. I can only imagine how that would have looked to the kids though! Hello Kitty suddenly freaks out and clobbers McGruff? They'd be traumatized! So instead I marched over to the table where two officers were controlling the miserable cur. I reached out with my huge mitten-paw hands and wrapped them around the head of the officer with the remote control. I leaned in, and held his face right up to mine, eye-to-eye (his eye to my eye, being his eye to the Kitty's nose, from an outside perspective) and held it there hoping he could see and hear me.
"Let. me. in. the. trailer. before I die." I growled through clenched teeth, before giving him a big Hello Kitty hug and turning to wave back at the kids as if nothing unusual had just transpired.
As I started back toward the promise of a much-deserved break, all I could hear was a chorus of little girls squealing "OOOOoooh!" and tons of giggles.
[caption id="attachment_1172" align="aligncenter" width="150" caption="Luckily, the paparazzi missed the chance to catch Hello Kitty in a compromising photo."][/caption]
Only later did I discover that there was going to be fallout from my encounter with Officer Joystick. When I drew him close to speak privately through the cat nose, things had been a little misconstrued. From outside the costume, it appeared that I had just grabbed a policeman and given him a long, passionate Hello Kitty kiss. And naturally, not all the parents were thrilled with that part of the show.
My boss did ask, in her preachy mom-voice, how I could have handled the situation differently while in costume.
My answer? I should have just clobbered McGruff. Lesson learned.
What was your first job, and did anything ever go hilariously wrong when you entered the working world?